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Bonza plays down early exit of chairman

written by Adam Thorn | April 14, 2023

Victor Pody shot this Bonza 737 MAX, VH-UIK.

Bonza chairman Rick Howell has stepped down from his role on the board just two months after the airline began commercial flying.

However, the business’s private equity owner, 777 Partners, insisted it was always the plan for Howell to leave after overseeing its launch, and he would now be posted to other “early-stage aviation innovation projects” within the wider group.

Documents lodged with the corporate regulator show Howell vacated the position late last month and hasn’t been replaced.

The exit means only CEO Tim Jordan, CFO Lidia Valenzuela, 777 founding partner Steve Pasko, and 777 head of aviation Adam Weiss remain on the board.

The news comes after yet more evidence emerged this week that Bonza’s unique business model of cutting out capital cities can succeed.


The airline revealed its flights were on average 88 per cent full over the Easter weekend, with flights to its base on the Sunshine Coast 94 per cent full on average.

Bonza is the first Australian operator to attempt to fly so-called “point-to-point” leisure services that skip out major cities and allow consumers to fly direct from holiday destination to holiday destination.

The business has said 93 per cent of its final network — 25 out of its 27 routes — are not currently flown by any other airline, while 96 per cent are not served by any other low-cost carrier.

Bonza has seen huge demand in its first three months of operation since launching in January, notching up over 100,000 bookings through its Fly Bonza app – enough to fill more than 500 flights.

Many traditional carriers, however, have argued its model would not work in Australia.

Last month, Australian Aviation reported how Rex’s deputy chairman, John Sharp, quipped he “can’t imagine” why anyone would fly Bonza’s upcoming route between Coffs Harbour and the Sunshine Coast.

Speaking to BOSS magazine, Sharp hinted the two holiday destinations are too similar to make business sense.

“Coffs Harbour is a great place [with a] great hinterland, nice beaches, lovely climate,” he said. “Maroochydore [in the Sunshine Coast] has nice beaches and a nice climate.

“Coffs Harbour is in NSW, and people have their business and professional connections in Sydney. There is a small market from Coffs Harbour to Brisbane, but I can’t imagine anyone wants to go from Coffs Harbour to Maroochydore.”

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